Bowhunting is one of the major pastimes for many people across the US, not just because of the game meat but also for the personal development it brings through such things as enhancing hand-eye coordination, self-esteem, and confidence.
But are all these gained at once? Your best is as good as ours. You don't experience the benefits of bowhunting overnight.
There are various things to learn regarding handling a bow for the most humane and ethical kill, and mastering the dynamics around bow draw weight for hunting is one of the critical aspects.
This article explains what bow draw weight is, why it matters, recommended bow draw weights under different conditions, and factors to consider about draw weight to have the best game hunting experience whether you are a beginner or an established marksman.
What is Bow Draw Weight and Why Does it Matter?
Bow draw weight or poundage is the amount of force you require to draw or pull back the string of a bow. It is measured in pounds and is usually inscribed on the lower limb of a bow on the side facing the shooter.
The draw weight of a bow is notably affected by the rigidity or stiffness of the limbs. For example, a bow with a draw weight of 60 Ibs has stiffer limbs than a 50Ib draw weight bow.
Most modern bows have a flexible draw weight using 10-15 pounds adjustments, with 10-pound increments being the most common. Bows for women and kids can have up to adjustments of 50 Ibs.
You can reduce the bow draw weight by pulling the string more or less for bows without adjustment options. The further you pull it, the higher the draw weight gets.
Bow draw weight matters because it determines the speed of the arrow. A high draw weight results in higher arrow speed. A higher speed results in better chances of hitting the target animal at a greater impact with deeper penetration, resulting in a faster and more humane kill.
Note: The relation between arrow speed and bow draw weight works only to a limit.
Higher draw weights require stiffer arrows, which might work against you because the arrows are generally heavier and will setback some of the advantages of the higher draw weight.
Is Bow Draw Weight Important While Hunting?
When hunting using a bow, you must pay close attention to bow draw weight because it can make or ruin your hunting experience.
As mentioned, higher draw weights result in higher arrow speeds and better chances of a quick kill.
You want your prey to die in the shortest time possible without causing undue pain or suffering. Knowing the best draw weight for the specific animal using your bow type is thus important.
There are two key issues here: draw weight and the type of bow, and draw weight and the type of animal you want to shoot. Each of these is equally important, and the best approach is to have a complete understanding of both.
For instance, you may be using a recurve bow (best bet for beginners) or a compound bow (as a pro hunter). The draw weight for a recurve bow should range between 10-15 Ibs for a small child to 45-60 Ibs for a powerful man.
The draw weight ranges between 15-25 Ibs for small children and 65-75 Ibs for powerful men if you use a compound bow.
Considering the type of animal you want to fell, for example, a whitetail deer requires a draw weight above 40 Ibs, while 60-65 Ibs is suitable for a bigger animal like a moose or elk.
Finding the Right Bow Draw Weight for Hunting
Finding the right bow draw weight for hunting might be challenging for you if you don't know what to consider. Here are some aspects to guide you in determining the right draw weight for your hunting expeditions.
Men usually have more muscle strength compared to women. As such, they can easily draw stiff bowstrings to greater draw weights compared to women.
While an average woman draws between 50 and 55 Ibs, most adult men manage 60-70 Ibs of draw weight. Some do up to 90 Ibs.
A small child can manage a draw weight of 10-25 Ibs, depending on the type of bow. The draw weight ability keeps increasing as one grows older (only up to a considerable age before you start having shoulder problems, among others) and can go up to between 60 and 90 Ibs.
Type of Bow
Recurve bows are less complicated and have lesser bow draw weights compared to the more complex compound bows. You can shoot between 10 and 60 Ibs with a recurve bow and between 15 and 75 Ibs with a compound bow.
Weight of the Hunter
As the weight of the hunter increases from child to adult, the bow draw weight also increases. A small child of 70 lbs can manage 10 to 25 pounds, while a powerful man can manage 60 to 90 pounds of draw weight, depending on the type of bow they are using.
The chart below summarizes the recommended draw weights for different types of bows and archer's weights.
Body Weight (lbs)
Recurve Draw Weight (lbs)
Compound Draw Weight (lbs)
Recommended Draw Weights by Type of Bow
Here's an overview of the recommended draw weights by the type of bow you use.
For Recurve Bows:
- 10-15 Ibs for small children
- 15-25 Ibs for strong children
- 25-35 Ibs for small and average women
- 30-45 Ibs for strong women
- 30-45 Ibs for small men and youths
- 40-55 Ibs for average men
- 45-60 Ibs for strong men.
For Compound Bows:
- 15-25 Ibs for small children
- 25-35 Ibs for strong children
- 25-35 Ibs for small women
- 30-40 Ibs for average women
- 45-55 Ibs for strong women and youth males
- 55-65 Ibs for average men
- 65-75 Ibs for strong men.
Recommended Draw Weight By Type of Animal
Here's an overview of the recommended draw weight by the type of animal you are hunting:
- 30 Ibs for small game such as turkeys and hogs
- Anything above 40 Ibs for whitetail deer
- 60-65 Ibs for a moose or elk
Draw Weight Considerations
Deciding on the perfect draw weight is a continuous and dynamic process because you'll have different correct draw weights even with the same bow across varying ages and physical attributes.
While you can have your draw weight determined or adjusted for you by an expert archer or at an archery shop, doing it yourself takes a trial-and-error approach.
Here are three key aspects to consider to determine if you are using the right draw weight.
Number of Times to Shoot Without Getting Fatigued
One way to test if you have the right draw weight is to count the number of times you can shoot consecutively without getting tired. You should be able to shoot at least 30 times. If you tire out before these are done, you need to reduce your bow draw weight.
Holding Capability at Full Draw
If you have the right bow draw weight, you should be able to hold the bow in the full draw position for at least one minute without shaking uncontrollably or letting it down.
Since you are hunting live animals on the move, this is important because the animal may move behind an obstacle or see you. Now, you don't want to let down or shake the bow in a way that will scare the animal away. You need to hold on and retarget accordingly.
Do You Sky Draw?
Sky draw in bowhunting refers to a situation where you start the draw with the arrow and bow pointed to the sky and then gradually bringing the two to full aim in front of you.
If this happens to you, it means the draw weight is too high, and you are struggling to keep up.
As such, you should reduce the draw weight to avoid a sky draw since it robs you time, speed, and accuracy when you have to hit a fast-moving animal.
Bowhunting Draw Weight Laws
Although bow hunting is legal in the US, there are different laws on bow draw weight. Most states require that a hunting bow should have a draw weight of at least 40 Ibs. Some do not have laws on the same.
Some states require different minimum draw weights by the animal you are hunting. For instance, in Alaska, a 40-pound draw weight applies when hunting wolves, deers, black bears, wolverines, caribou, and Dall sheep.
A 50-pound draw weight applies for moose, mountain goat, brown bear, elk, bison, and muskox in the same state.
Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, and Maine require the bow to have at least 35 Ibs in draw weight. Other states like Missouri, Mississippi, Kansas, Iowa, Texas, and South Carolina have no minimum draw weight requirements for hunting bows.
Determining the right bow draw for hunting might be challenging.
While you can always have it determined for you by a marksman or at an archery shop, you can also rely on trial and error. The latter method calls for checking your age, body weight, type of bow, and the type of animal you want to hunt.
Bow draw weight determines how fast the arrow travels and how much penetrative impact it has on the animal, but this has limits since higher weights require stiffer arrows, which are often heavier and may set you back on the gains of higher draw weight.
People Also Ask
Whether you are a beginner or seasoned archer, you may have questions about bow draw length that you may need answers for from experts. We are here for you. Here are some common questions people ask about hunting bow draw weight.
Does Draw Length Affect the Draw Weight of a Hunting Bow?
Draw length is a measurement, in inches, of how far back an archer pulls a bow. While a standard draw length of 28 inches is used to measure the draw weight, the weight may increase or decrease as the draw length increases or decreases.
For example, a bow with a draw weight of 30 Ibs at 28 inches of draw length will register fewer pounds when pulled to only 26 inches and more pounds when pulled to 29 inches.
However, since an expert uses your wingspan to determine your draw length and consequently the appropriate bow draw length, the best way draw length would affect draw weight for the same person is when their draw length increases.
Such an increase necessitates a higher draw weight.
What is a Good Bow Draw Weight for Beginners?
If you are a beginner, it's essential to check what the minimum bow draw weight is for your state. It is usually 40 Ibs for most states, although some have it as low as 30.
You can start with a bow of 40 pounds draw weight and keep raising the bar as you get more comfortable with higher weights.
If the beginner is a small child, you should get them started with less than 40 Ibs, as long as it is agreeable in your state.
How Much Draw Weight Does it Take to Kill a Deer?
A bow draw weight of 40 Ibs is potent enough to kill a deer and is the recommended size for hunting small game such as deer in states like Alaska.
However, note that other factors, such as where you hit the animal, also count. For a quick, humane kill, you should target delicate organs like the heart. A shot in the leg will cause the deer unnecessary pain even with a draw weight of 40 and won't even kill it fast.